Facts About Bhutan

Land area: 38,394 square kilometres
Forest area: 72.5 %
Altitude: between 240metres and 7541metres above sea level
Inhabitants: 634,982
Language: official language “Dzongkha”, English widely spoken
Religion: Vajrayana stream of Mahayana Buddhism (Also known as Tantric Buddhism)
Currency: Ngultrum (equal to Indian Rupee)
Capital: Thimphu
National Tree: Cypress
National Bird: Raven
National Flower: Blue Poppy
National Sport: Archery
National Animal: Takin
Local time: Six hours ahead of GMT and half an hour ahead of Indian Standard Time

How to Reach Bhutan

Getting to Bhutan

Reaching Paro by Air
Druk Air, the National Air Carrier of Bhutan, operates regular flights to / from Paro to Delhi (India), Kolkatta (India), Gaya (India), Kathmandu (Nepal), Bangkok (Thailand) and Dhaka (Bangladesh). Not too many airlines are available if you want to travel Paro from India, then Drukair is the only airline available. Paro is the only airport connecting Bhutan with rest of world through a well network of flights. Drukair is also regarded as one of the safest airlines in the world. However it is advisable to book your air tickets well in advance to avoid the tourist season rush. For detailed information about airline, schedule and tariff, please visit Druk Air.

By Surface
Entry / Exit to Bhutan is also possible through Phuentsholing, the southern Bhutan frontier town. Bagdogra airport, in the state of West Bengal (India) is the nearest airport about 5 hours drive from Phuentsholing. Also Bagdogra (and its main town Siliguri) is the convenient point for visiting West Bengal region of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and touristically popular state of Sikkim.

Bhadrapur (about 5 hours drive from Phuentsholing) and Biratnagar (about 7 hours drive from Phuentsholing) are two other nearby airports in Nepal, connected with regular flights from Kathmandu.

Immigration in Bhutan

Customs
Visitors are required to complete a passenger declaration form for checking by concerned officers on arrival. The following articles are exempted from duty :-
a). Personal affects and articles for day to day use by the visitor
b). 1 liter of alcohol (spirits or wine)
c). 200 cigarettes, on payment of import duty of 200%
d). Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use
e). Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use .

The articles mentioned under d). & e). must be declared on declaration form. If any such items are disposed in Bhutan by sale of gift, they are liable for custom duty. On departure, visitors are required to surrender their forms to the Custom authorities.
Visa Requirement for Bhutan
All travelers except Indian residents require visa for traveling to Bhutan.
In order to process Bhutan visa we require clear readable copy of passport at least 20 days prior to date of entry into Bhutan. Remaining validity of passport should be at least 6 months from the date of exit from Bhutan.

Tourism Council of Bhutan issues visa clearance letter closer to traveling date which we email or fax you or your local travel agent. Travelers are required to produce aforesaid visa clearance copy at the time of check-in for Druk Air flight while those entering Bhutan by surface via Phuentsholing or Samdrup Jonkhar, they are required to produce this Visa Clearance letter at the Immigration counter. Actual visa is stamped at passport on arrival in Bhutan.

Visa only service is not offered in Bhutan, guests have to buy full service tour package from local tour operator that includes accommodation, guided tours, transfers etc.

Visa fee of US$ 20 is included in the tour package cost.

Climate and Weather Conditions in Bhutan

Geographically, Bhutan is a land of dramatic contrast. From the near tropical southern border with India, steep slopes climb to snow-capped heights of over 24,750 feet / 7,500m at the northern border with Tibet. Consequently, temperatures vary greatly between day and night and at different altitudes, so layered clothing for changing conditions, is recommended. In the central valleys, the summer rains are not as heavy as in the south and occur mostly in late afternoon and at night. From mid-May to the end of September, the weather is warm at night (60-64F/17-18C) and in the day (72-78F/22-26C). In winter, the sky is bright and it is sunny but cold, especially when the sun hides behind the mountains in the mornings and evenings. At night, the temperature falls below zero. Spring and Autumn are very pleasant with warm days and cool nights.

Best Time to Visit Bhutan
Trip to Bhutan can be planned throughout the year but best months are Mar, April, May, September, October, November. Also there are several festivals taking place during these months, offering an added attraction. Winter in Bhutan is from mid November to mid March and at this time of the year, climate is dry and sunny for the most parts with perfect blue sky, temperatures peaking at around 15c in the daytime and falling below zero at night. The monsoon usually arrives in mid-June, with light rain falling mainly in the afternoons and evenings.

Health Precautions for Travelers

Health and vaccination requirement

No vaccination is currently required for entry into Bhutan . However if you are arriving from an area infected with yellow fever, you are required to have a yellow fever vaccination.

If you are arriving from Cholera infected area then officials may ask for evidence of Cholera vaccination. Anti –malarial medication is recommended for all travelers to Bhutan who are visiting rural areas in the districts that border India.

It is suggested that you assemble a traveler's medical kit appropriate to destination, length of trip and general health. On a tour in Bhutan, there are long drives, and roads are winding so medication for motion sickness is strongly suggested. You should also pack an adequate supply of any prescribed medications you may require while traveling.

Travelers who plan to visit Bhutan should consult a physician about high-altitude travel. After a brief period of acclimatization, most people do not suffer from altitude sickness ; but elderly travelers or those with high blood pressure or heart conditions need to exercise caution at high altitudes.

Food and Drinks
Bhutanese food is generally good. Set meals for travelers tend to be on the bland side, because local food is heavily seasoned with red chilies and can be quite hot. Most hotels provide meals buffet-style. There are usually continental, Indian, Chinese and Bhutanese dishes. The food in hotels is often the best in town, but in main towns now there are few restaurants increasingly becoming popular. All tourist hotels have good selection of international and Bhutanese beverages.

Food provided during tour is quite elaborate and generally consists of followings :

On Cultural Tour
BREAKFAST; Canned juice with choice of orange, mango, pineapple, apple etc, Porridge/cornflakes/cereals, Fresh fruits, Sausages/bacon, Toast, butter and Jam, Eggs, Tea/coffee

LUNCH; Salad, Rice, 2 Non-vegetable items, 2 Vegetable items, Roti/Nan, Desert, Tea/Coffee

DINNER; Soup, Salad, Rice, Noodles, 2 Non-vegetable items, 2 Vegetable items, Desert, Tea/Coffee

EVENING TEA; Tea/Coffee, Cookies/sandwich, Biscuits/pasteries

On Trek
BREAKFAST; Canned juice with choice of orange, mango, pineapple, apple etc., Porridge/cornflakes/cereals, Fresh fruits, Sausages/bacon, Eggs, Tea/Coffee

LUNCH; Vegetable cutlet/sandwich/boiled potato, Chicken roast/roast beef, Boiled eggs, Roti/Naan, Fresh fruits, Canned juice, Boiled drinking water

DINNER; Soup, Salad, Rice, Noodles, 2 Non-vegetable items, 2 Vegetable items, Desert, Tea/Coffee

EVENING TEA: Tea/Coffee, Cookies/sandwich, Biscuits

Even though the locals drink water straight from the tap, we suggest visitors to drink only bottled water. On treks, we provide boiled and filtered water. A reasonable variety of both hard and soft drinks are available in hotels, restaurants and shops in most towns. Many Bhutanese enjoy drinking traditional homemade alcoholic brews made from wheat, millet or rice.

Bhutan is the only country in the world to totally ban the import and sale of all tobacco products. You can bring in a reasonable amount of cigarettes for personal consumption, but you will be charged an import duty of 100%. Smoking is banned in all public places including restaurants and bars

Communication Facilities in Bhutan
All major towns and cities have basic communication facilities, including phone, fax, and email service. Local and international calls can be made from all hotels and public phone booths for a fee. Cell phones with a Bhutanese SIM card can also be used in most urban places and some rural places as well, and can be used with a commonly available pre-paid mobile voucher.

Standard mail service in Bhutan is handled by Bhutan Post, and is commonly found throughout the country. However, now both DHL and Federal Express have offices in Thimphu which can be utilized for sending and receiving documents and packages.

Internet facilities are continuously increasing in number and can be found in major cities and towns. Although many of the Internet cafes still rely on a dial-up connection, which can be very slow, high speed wireless and broadband can be found in certain areas.

Transportation in Bhutan

Comfortable surface transport is available in Bhutan, making journey in this mountainous terrain really pleasant. Latest model Japanese Toyota Cars, Land Cruisers, Hiace Buses and Coaster Buses are offered to our tourists depending upon the group size. Our experienced, courteous drivers are well trained and licensed by Department of Tourism and the Department of Motor Vehicles in safety and driving on mountainous terrain. Tourists are at ease riding in Bhutan Mountains. The transport and guide accompany the tourist right from arrival until departure.

Photography in Bhutan

Bhutan's landscape, buildings and people are some of the most photogenic in the world. While photographing local people, it is always better to take permission first. Don't take your destination as a living museum. There are certain places such as monasteries and temples, where photography is prohibited however there is no restriction on photographing Dzongs (fort or fortress) and Goembas (monastery) from outside. If you are uncertain about whether or not photography is permitted, please check with your local guide. You should refrain from taking pictures of military installations.

Electricity & Voltage in Bhutan

In Bhutan, electricity runs 220 / 240 volts. If you do bring electrical appliances, take along an international converter kit complete with a set of adapter plugs.

Languages of Bhutan

"Dzongkha", one of the Tibetan family of languages is Bhutan's national language. English is commonly spoken in main towns and also it is the medium of education in schools throughout the country.

Shopping in Bhutan
Items that are most frequently purchased by travelers to Bhutan include postage stamps, lovely hand-woven fabrics, carved masks, woven baskets, thangkhas, wooden bowls, handmade paper and finely-crafted metal objects. In Bhutan, the buying and / or selling of antiques is strictly forbidden.

Clothing and gear requirements in Bhutan
Comfortable clothing and sturdy, soft-soled shoes are essential for travel in Bhutan. Warm clothing is recommended; and except for summer months, down jackets and woolen sweaters are suggested. In summer, heavy cottons and lightweight woolens will be acceptable. Altitudinal differences account for a wide range of temperatures from day to night the year round. It is, therefore, suggested that clothing be layered so that you can adapt to the changing conditions.

While visiting temples and other religious institutions, dress modestly and respectfully. Slacks are more appropriate for men; and longer length skirts are more appropriate for women. Shoulders must also be covered when inside religious buildings. Also refrain from smoking while on the premises. Please keep in mind that shoes must be removed when entering temples. It is, therefore, suggested that you carry a pair of socks to wear inside religious buildings.

The following is fairly exhaustive list of what you should pack for the trip ; clothes as per season, sunglasses / spare glasses, pair of casual shoes, knife, hat, umbrella, camera, films and accessories, insect repellent, hand cream, small sewing kit & safety pins, torch or flash light with spare batteries, mirror, scissor, sun cream, lip salve, soluble aspirin, antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream, anti-diarrhea pills, a preparation for the relief of sunburn and any medication you take regularly.

Camping Equipment whilst on a trek
Whilst trekking you are provided with foam mats but we recommend you bring a self-inflating mat pack called Thermarest. This packs up small but when inflated gives very good insulation and is more comfortable than a single closed-cell foam mat. We do not recommend that you bring an airbed. You should also bring your Sleeping bags which should be 4-seasons bags as the temperature will decrease especially at 4,000m camp sites.

Other useful items
It would be prudent to bring all essential items from home; razor blades (or battery operated shaver), toothpaste, shampoo, make-up etc., insect repellent, soap, alarm clock, binoculars, torch, sunscreen, sufficient reading material and plenty of batteries for all electrical appliances.

Laundry service in hotel
Laundry service is available in most of the hotels at main destinations. However, it is advisable to check the hotel's individual laundry return policy and pricing schedule before choosing to have laundry done at a hotel.

Money matter and use of credit card & Traveler cheques

Bhutanese currency is Ngultrum (Nu.) and is officially pegged to the Indian Rupee. Also Indian Rupee is acceptable all over Bhutan except Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes.

Credit Cards have limited acceptability and payment through credit card is accepted mainly by Deluxe hotels and few selected Handicrafts establishments only.
There are ATMs in Bhutan but currently they only operate with their respective Bhutanese banks. Since these ATMs currently do not function with outside banks, so ATM facility can not be used by visitors. Traveler's checks / cash are best option if you need additional money.

Cash and Travelers Cheques exchange facility is available for most of the main currencies including the US dollar, Euro, Indian Rupee, Japanese Yen, Thai Baht, Pound Sterling, Swiss Franc, Hong Kong dollar, Canadian dollar, Australian dollar, Singapore dollar, Danish kroner, Norwegian kroner, and Swedish kroner. Exchange rates vary.


Bhutan Time Zone
Bhutan time is six hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. There is only one time zone throughout the country.

Tipping in Bhutan
Tipping is not compulsory for tour, nor there is any fixed amount for this. Nevertheless the bottom line in determining whether and how much to tip is to ask yourself how much the individual contributed to make your travels more enjoyable.
 

Facts About Bhutan
- Getting to Bhutan
- Climate and Weather
- Best Time
- Health Precautions
- Food and Drinks
- Communication
- Transportation
- Photography
- Languages
- Clothing and gear requirements
 
Trip Destinations
- Two Valley Tours
- Glimpse of Bhutan
- Bhutan Cultural Tour
- Textile Weaving Tour
- Round Bhutan Tour
- Jomolhari Trek
- Laya - Gasa Trek
- Mountain Bike Tour
 
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